Saving the best for last, eh? Obviously, nothing is going to get the stomach acids and tension headaches going more for Hawks fans than thinking about the goaltending situation. It was the biggest question heading out of last season and it still is heading into this one (and make no mistake, Martin Fucking Brodeur would have solved exactly nothing about it). A lot of you have already chalked this one as the Hawks downfall this season. I won’t say you’re wrong. But I’m not sure I’m there yet.
Ok, put your waders on. This is not going to be clean.
2011-2012: 55 starts – 30-17-7 – .903 SV% – 2.72 GAA – 28.0 shots-faced/game
Yeah ok, it’s not pretty. Crow only faced 0.3 shots more per game last year than the season before, so there’s only so much you can pin on the defense in front of him. But Crow himself would tell you he simply wasn’t good enough. And he seems to get how much is riding on this season for him. He certainly hasn’t hidden from or not taken responsibility for what went on last year.
So what was the problem? And let’s try and be a little more detailed than simply, “He didn’t stop the puck.” Through the first half or three-quarters of the season, it appeared that Crawford was attempting to be more aggressive than he had in his rookie year. Instead of letting the puck come to him and using his size, he was really challenging shooters and trying to cut angles.
But this didn’t make a lot of sense. Crow has never moved that well, and his angles were off even when he was good, especially with players streaking down the wings. He’s a big guy, he really has no reason to get out too far when he fills so much of the net as is. It’s hard to know if this was Crawford’s decision or the Hawks’, but that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that it led to Crawford going swimming far too often and leaving much more open space behind him. It also caused pucks to get on him faster than he was accustomed to, which led to some rebound control issues. This of course led to a loss of confidence and you know where that goes.
What was so disappointing about those two playoff OT pants-pissing was that Crawford had finished the season strongly, with a 1.88 GAA in his last 17 decisions (though his SV% was still .904 in that time).
Another stat worth taking a look at is that Crow’s SV% while shorthanded dropped 50 points, from .870 to .829 from 2011 to 2012. And quite simply, neither is good. However, this is one you can apportion more blame to the minions in front of him and the drunken puppet-master wielding them. Because if the Hawks aren’t going to clear the crease but also aren’t going to do much about stopping shots from the point, well…
So what this year? You can argue that there’s just as much evidence that Crow can be good as there is that he’s bad. After all, he had the exact same amount of appearances his rookie year as he did last year, and was much better. What that most likely means — occam’s razor again — is that he’s somewhere in the middle. So how in the middle can he be and the Hawks still win? If you split the two right in the center you’d get a .910 SV% and a 2.51 GAA. Is that enough? It’s hard to say. That was just about Niemi’s SV% in 2010, but of course that was a better team in front of him.
Mostly, Crawford just needs to return to what he does best, and that’s a more conservative style. He doesn’t need to be five feet outside the crease. He should just be at the top of it. Let his size do the work, and not give himself so much ground to cover when teams make him move. If he does that, I don’t think he’ll be great, but I think he’ll be good enough. I think. I hope. I pray.
Ray Emery (aka Razor)
2011-2012: 34 appearances – 15-9-4 - .900 SV% – 2.81 GAA – 28.2 shots-faced/game
Honestly, I’m more worried about this than I am about Crawford. People didn’t pay attention mostly because he wasn’t Crawford, and Q might not have either, but Emery pretty much sucked last year. He wore the a lot of that February Death March last year, and some of those games he couldn’t shift blame to anyone else. It’s not that he was letting in nine goals (outside of Edmonton), but letting in goals at the worst times that he simply couldn’t. Games in Colorado, Calgary, and Nasvhille come to mind.
It’s easy to know why. He can’t move. Once teams get him shifting side-to-side, you can pretty much forget it. That’s not going to change a year later. So don’t expect miracles.
Which is a problem. Because in a shortened season, those one or two games you toss away because your backup isn’t up to it can be gotten around. They can’t when you only have 48. Maybe the frequency of the games means your back up won’t sit as long and get stale, but I don’t know that’s going to matter.
And if you’re looking for outside help, it’s going to be hard for teams to completely fall out of it in this schedule and looking to dump players. But Niklas Backstrom will be a free agent next summer, y’know in case Matt Hackett is actually the real deal.